Monday, May 14, 2007

Water Testing on the Don

Water testing station beside the Don River

Just south of Pottery Road is a nondescript little hut beside the Don River. This little building which is covered with graffiti actually performs a valuable scientific function. It is used to collect water samples from the river for water quality testing.

I was passing by last week when I noticed a vehicle parked nearby and someone busy inside working some equipment. I stopped to look and had an interesting chat with the occupant. He turned out to be with the Ministry of the Environment and was collecting water samples. Apparently they do this periodically. The water samples are analyzed for various chemicals and dissolved minerals. In addition the amount of sediment gives an indication of how much suspended material is carried by the water. The station is also used to monitor base water flow and water flow during a storm surge.

All this data is compiled and collated along with data from the other watersheds in Toronto. The data will end up in a report that will be used for Toronto's Remedial Action Plan. The RAP program is used throughout the Great Lakes to work towards restoring environmentally degraded areas. The RAP program was started in 1987 and monitors 42 places in and around the Great Lakes. To date only two Areas of Concern (Collingwood Harbour and Severn Sound) have been completed and delisted.

Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes (Environment Canada, 2007)

Toronto's RAP is not the worst in the list but it is unlikely to be delisted anytime soon. Stormwater is still the biggest problem. This is being dealt with by the Wet Weather Flow Management Plan. While implementation started in 2002 it will take 25 years to complete. Even when it is completed in 2027 there is no guarantee that Toronto's water pollution problem will be completely solved. But at least there is a plan and it is being worked on.

Until that time, water samples will continue to be collected from the river. Let's hope that the trends indicate some improvement.

MOE scientist collecting water samples

Taking a live sample

Destined for the lab

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